Stagefright (1987) | Michael Soavi’s theatre of blood and gore and on Blu-ray

Not to be confused with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 thriller or the 1980 Ozpolitation serial killer chiller (that was also titled Nightmares) or even that ropey 2014 Minnie Driver/Meat Loaf theatre camp horror of the same name, 1987’s Stagefright (AKA Aquarius, AKA Delira) marked Italian film-maker Michele Soavi’s directorial debut. Having learned the ropes working as a second unit director with the likes of Joe D’Amato and Dario Argento, Soavi certainly earned his stripes with this bonkers blood-soaked slasher.

The set-up is simple but soon turns insane. A dance troupe have just one week until they open their experimental new musical production, The Night Owl, about a fictional killer and they still stink. When one of the crew members is murdered by escaped mental patient Irving Wallace (Clain Parker and Luigi Montefiori), the company’s director (David Brandon) seizes on the opportunity the tragedy will bring to the show in terms of publicity. He renames the show’s antagonist to that of the psychopathic former stage actor and locks everyone in the theatre to rehearse. However, Wallace has also snuck in and soon embarks on his killing spree.

Featuring inventive set-pieces that are both stylishly executed and gruesome to the max, Stagefright has quite rightly earned its cult status over the years. It also boasts a hauntingly terrific score from Simon Boswell, whose punk-skewed synth sound is the perfect match for Soavi’s vision. It’s like watching a feature-length music video – but with lashings of gore.

Stagefright also features one of the most bizarre-looking killers in the slasher genre – the mute owl head-wearing psycho who dispatches his victims with a drill, chainsaw and axe (in what could be read as a nod to The Driller Killer‘s Reno Miller, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘s Leatherface and Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhees).

Genre regulars Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Cannibal Apocalypse, City of the Living Dead) and Barbara Cupisti (The New York Ripper, The Church) are among the cast, while Soavi also appears as one of the two cops stationed outside the theatre while all the mayhem is going on inside. The other is played by former American actor turned screenwriter and dialogue director, Mickey Knox (look him up, he’s quite the character). And here’s a shout out to Lucifer the cat who out-acts the rest of the cast.

Now one scene that really excited me was when our owl-headed psycho creates his macabre tableaux– arranging the dead actors in various poses, stuffing feathers in their mouths and smearing their blood on their faces. It reminded me of the poster for one of my favourite Vincent Price films: Theatre of Blood. Now, I wonder if Soavi was also reminded of it when he designed this scene? What do you think?

The Shameless Films 4K restoration release of Soavi’s Stagefright is a welcome addition to their other releases of the director’s horror output: Dellamorte Dellamore, The Sect and The Church, and it looks and sounds terrific. I’ll be revisiting this often.

Special Edition Features
• New 4K-restored version
Staging the Fright: Interview with director Michele Soavi
The Theater of Blood: Interview with actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice 
The Last Performance: Interview with actor David Brandon
• English or Italian with new English subtitles and hard-of-hearing closed captions

Stagefright is available on Blu-ray and digital on-demand from Shameless Films: https://www.shameless-films.com/product/stagefright-blu-ray/

About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on December 27, 2021, in Horror, Might See and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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